Rural neighbors who hate each other come to blows one day on a farm and get tangled up in an agricultural tractor, leaving them both paralyzed, wheelchair-bound, and simmering with spite. But rather than feel sorry for themselves, the embittered paraplegics decide to seek revenge against the tractor's manufacturer. They take to the road, redirecting their frustrations with their plights towards the people they meet on the way to Helsinki. Captured in sharp black-and-white Cinemascope photography that complements its exquisite Tati-like sight gags, Aaltra undermines conventional attitudes toward the disabled with its dry wit and acerbic, vengeful characters. Look for some recognizable cameos, including famous Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki.
Director and Cast
Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Format: DVD (NTSC)
Encoding: Region 1
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1, Letterboxed
Screen Format: 16x9 Widescreen (Anamorphic)
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo
Closed Captioned: Yes
January / February 2005
13 Films to Look Out For in 2005
By Jonathan Romney
(Benoît Delépine, Gustave Kervern; Belgium)One of the wry pleasures of 2004, and certainly the year's most enjoyable Belgian disability road comedy. Two warring curmudgeons hit the road in wheelchairs after losing the use of their legs in a bizarre farming accident and head to Finland to demand reparation, making misery for everyone they meet en route. Tati-esque pacing, crisp black-and-white photography, and marvelous non sequitur moments-including a touch of Finnish biker karaoke-lead up to a killer punchline, delivered in typical laconic style by Aki Kaurismäki . . . who else?
--Jonathan Romnet/ Film Comment - Review
December 8, 2004
Farmer Gus (Gustave Kervern) has a tendency for dozing off on the job, losing his rag, and generally annoying the hell out of people. Commuter Ben (Benoît Delépine) – his neighbour – is probably the person he annoys most. And Ben has hit a bad patch with his job and his marriage. One day, Gus's willfully obstructive tractor-driving is the last straw. A fight ensues, the tractor malfunctions, and Gus and Ben awaken in neighboring hospital beds, paralyzed from the waist down. Sent home having been told there's no hope of improved mobility, each turns to thoughts of suicide…
The reluctant and magnificently ill-matched pair soon abandon self-pity, however. Instead they give free rein to their anger and assertive aggression as Gus determines to head to Finland to sue the tractor manufacturers and Ben surlily accompanies him north to a motorcross meet.
If you're not laughing yet, you soon will be, as this is one of the funniest black comedies in some time. Kervern and Delépine's deadpan chronicle of this largely wordless wheelchair odyssey is essentially a string of priceless sight-gags – beautifully shot in black-and-white 'Scope – hung on to the sturdy premise of the steel-jawed protagonists' entirely undisguised dislike of each other and, probably, the rest of the world. Few if any of the gags hinge on their disability, and those that do highlight how the non-disabled world can unwittingly make life unnecessarily difficult for wheelchair-users. 'Man Bites Dog's' Benoît Poelvoorde is in the cast, though you may miss him; Aki Kaurismäki and Jason Flemyng are recognisable, however. But I bet it's the guy singing 'Sunny' who sticks with you. Lovely.
--Unknown/ Time Out London - Review
April 12, 2005
The Top 40 Picks From the Tribeca Film Festival
By Dennis Lim
Aaltra Aki Kaurismäki shows up to deliver the punchline of this black-and-white Belgian, um, wheelchair road movie—which is only fitting given the film's creepingly lugubrious comedy (epitomized by a biker-bar rendition of "Sunny"). Odd-couple writer-directors Benoît Delépine and Gustave Kervern play sworn enemies who become paralyzed in a tractor accident and end up traveling north in search of a motocross rally and the manufacturer of the faulty farm machinery. Lethally precise and improbably hilarious, Aaltra traces a throughline from Tati to Kaurismäki to the Farrellys.
--By Dennis Lim/ Village Voice - Review
Jeff in Seattle - Customer Review
Lenny, Chicago - Customer Review
I FINALLY got around to watching Aaltra tonight. When I received the movie I seemed to have misplaced it. Well... I was feeling down and out tonight and low and behold... I found it. Popped it into my DVD player and LAUGHED MY ASS OFF!!!!!! This film was wonderful and I can't tell you how much JOY and insight your club has given me this past year.